Defining Creators in the Music Space

When we look at the creative process in music, contributors span far and wide — but is this represented in the language we’re using?

I| In the music industry the term creator has become one that is often interchanged with that of recording artist. Undeniably this role is significant in the creative process, and in many instances the recording artist is the main creative contributor, often writing and producing their own work; but what are the implications of this behaviour for cases where the distribution of creative input is more diverse?

II| The creative process begins with a motivation to create music, from which composers and lyricists drive the beginnings of a work. As instrumentals are employed for its development, melodies evolve, and creators delve into the world of recording and production. At times, creators may fulfil all of these roles, but it’s standard practice that steps are addressed by their relevant experts. We should expect to find featured artists, multiple musicians, writing camps hosted for lyrics and a team of producers related to a track. And as such, a track’s creation is the result of a small unit of creators, as opposed to that of a single star that is the recording artist. For this reason, it is only right that our use of the term creator must give appreciation to all those creators who contribute to the journey.

An interesting comparison to our recent skew towards the recording artist is that of classical music, a genre where composer takes the leading role — do you say you enjoy Beethoven’s fifth symphony or the rendition you heard from the Philharmonia Orchestra? You might say both, but more often than not our preferences are outlined with regards to the composers. The value of this differing behaviour is that it highlights one way is not necessarily better than the other. Rather our behaviour towards interpreting and communicating about music is learned, of which industry direction is the major influence. Our radio stations state only the recording artist because airtime is limited, our CD’s wrote the contributor within the cover as the album art took precedence, and our streaming sites highlight the recording artist because there’s limited pixels on our screens. We’ve given rise to the recording artist as the assumed key creator in contemporary music by failing to provide appropriate exposure to all contributors. So the question is how can we move forward from here?

III| Our industry is an ecosystem, of which the creators, labels, distributors and listeners play critical roles. It is the responsibility of all players to refine our language around music, to expose the hidden creatives and to keep our interpretation of the creator in check. Resolving this will take time and is not without its challenges.

The music industry is plagued by incorrect and missing data. You cannot expose what you do not know or do not have. Providing this information is within the scope of the artists and the labels. Once gained, the accountability falls to the distributors who must learn to surface this information appropriately. Whilst constraints remain, limited screen sizes and a focus on streamlined user experiences, these are design problems where opportunity outweighs complexity. With exposure in place and transparency achieved, the final task is engagement from the listeners. Without a willingness to change or actively acknowledging less exposed creators, the industry’s efforts may go overlooked. Each actor has their role to play in driving change.

IIII| The music industry has moved towards a recording artist focused world. The consequence of which is terminology and behaviour that can often overlook all those creators involved in the pipeline. In order to move away from this, it is important that the industry and its listeners raise the significance of all contributors — investing our efforts in educating ourselves, providing awareness and developing products that give rise to a new and more transparent landscape.